High Court Judge Pablo Ruz ordered former Popular Party (PP) treasurer Luis Bárcenas held in custody without bail until his eventual trial late Thursday, after prosecutors had argued that he was a flight risk and had been transferring money from his Swiss accounts to banks in the United States and Uruguay over the past few weeks.
The Civil Guard put the 57-year-Bárcenas into a van and took him to the Soto del Real prison, outside Madrid. Members of the public outside the courthouse jeered as the van drove off at about 7.35pm.
It was a dramatic turn of events in the ongoing criminal investigation into the once powerful PP official, who controlled the ruling party’s purse strings.
Defense lawyers said they would appeal the decision on the basis that their client is not a flight risk. PP officials, meanwhile, refused to comment on the jailing of their former colleague.
“I am not going to say anything. I am on vacation. I have nothing to say,” said Ángel Sanchís, also a former PP treasurer who has been called to testify before the High Court in another case related to the paying out of secret bonuses to leading PP officials.
PP officials refused to comment on the jailing of their former colleague
Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón said he respected the examining judge’s ruling. “I can assure you that no one in the PP or in Spanish society can be against any investigation that must be investigated,” the conservative said.
Ruz handed down his decision after Bárcenas and his wife had been called in to testify in a tax-evasion case the couple is facing. Prosecutors had told the judge that Bárcenas was also tampering with evidence and had been involved in a cover-up in several ongoing investigations. The former PP treasurer, who has been the subject of intense media scrutiny over allegations that he laundered money and was instrumental in paying high-ranking PP officials bonuses on top of their salaries, arrived at the High Court with his wife, Rosalía Iglesias, on Thursday to testify before Ruz.
Dozens of people heckled the couple — shouting “thieves, thieves” — as they emerged from their vehicle accompanied by their lawyers.
Bárcenas is also the target of a money-laundering inquiry involving the so-called Gürtel network of corrupt businessmen, who paid off PP politicians in exchange for fat public contracts.
He is also being investigated in the so-called “Bárcenas papers” case, based on handwritten ledgers he kept while serving as PP finance manager and then treasurer that show bonuses paid out to top party officials, including Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, and the contributions made by powerful businessmen. The inquiry began after EL PAÍS published the ledgers on January 31.
The Bárcenas couple is accused of fraud and falsifying documents on their tax statements between 2002 and 2006. Both he and his wife faced questions about an alleged sale of two paintings listed on Iglesias’s tax return to explain her earnings of 222,112 euros in 2006. Bárcenas testified for about three hours while Iglesias took around half-an-hour to give her statement.
Prosecutors said Iglesias showed up at a Caja Madrid branch in 2006 to deposit 500,000 in 500-euro notes.
To explain the deposit, Bárcenas maintains that he hired an Argentinean art dealer, Isabel Mackinlay, to sell the paintings for him in Buenos Aires. However, Mackinlay has told the High Court through video testimony that she has never met either the former treasurer or his wife.